I think it’s safe to say that The Order: 1886 has become the most infamous exclusive to the PlayStation 4. It’s come under fire by pretty much everyone since it left many disappointed upon its release in February 2015. Granted, I wasn’t one of those players who spent up to $/£80 on a pre-order deluxe edition, but nevertheless I stand as being one of the very few who are quick to defend The Order as one of the most best of the exclusive library. You’re definitely already hurling tomatoes and cabbages at your monitors in protest, and I suppose considering my poor taste in most media, you’re probably justified, but hey, hear me out.
The Order: 1886 puts you in command of Sir Galahad, a legendary Knight of the Round Table, preserved by an elixir which maintains their ability to protect London from half-breeds and anarchists. Equipped with outlandish weaponry, courtesy of Nikola Tesla, Galahad fights through hordes of werewolves, lycans and other nasties, uncovering a conspiracy along the way. Pretty bare-basic story, but nevertheless one with heaps of promise. The concept of a secret order battling supernatural forces during London’s Victorian era had me hooked, tackling historic events like The Ripper murders, The Great Plague and anti-monarchy revolutions was just an added bonus.
So let’s start with the things that even the biggest detractors can agree on. Without a doubt, The Order: 1886 did what it set out to do – show off all the wonderful new things the PS4 could accomplish with visuals. The environments, the characters, and pretty much the overall design of the game is gorgeous. The bleak aesthetic of Victorian London translated so well into the game, being diverse enough while travelling between levels, showing off such iconic districts as Westminster, Whitechapel and Hyde Park. They also managed to make The Underground into more of a horrific experience than it is in real life.
Secondly, it’s hard to fault the narrative, which comes across well written and is married with intriguing characters which are performed admirably. Without spoiling too much, there’s enough in there to keep you invested, with several twists along the way opening up for the possibilities of a few sequels. Although this does of course bring me to one of the biggest criticisms.
It only lasted a few hours.
Several people had completed the linear story and returned it for a fraction of their pre-order price within the first 24 hours of release. Having played through the game a few times for the sake of an easy Platinum trophy, I can say that I personally got my money’s worth, but I can’t say the same for the percentage of players not willing to stick around for the second playthrough. Replayability is an issue, with little in the way of collectables or branching story options.
I can’t justify it too much as it was effectively one of the first console exclusives which had a lot of expectations to live up to. But still, you can’t blame the developers for not wanting to outstay their welcome. For a game which relied a lot more upon interactive drama rather than infinite gameplay, they were looking to deliver a short yet substantial and innovative story and make way for the rest of the franchise. Perhaps players would have been less scorned if they weren’t paying AAA prices – ranging between $/£40-80 on release date. Could the length of the game have been appreciated more if it was priced between $/£20-30 and released solely through the PS store? Possibly. The way I see it, you don’t hear people complaining about a good film only lasting 120 minutes. They do what they can with the time they need, without making it tedious or confusing.
A severe lack of DLC could have also aided in the situation. The Order’s ending left the option for Galahad’s story to continue as some Victorian vigilante. Looking at how the Assassin’s Creed series has made the most of its various settings, DLC can allow for the characters to take a role in different historical events. Victorian London has plenty of infamous characters for Galahad to come face-to-face with. It would have helped to take the bitter taste out of everyone’s mouths and at least provide them with a couple of extra hours of content every few months.
Of course, the mindset was probably to keep material held back for the burgeoning franchise, but after the absolute thrashing it received from critics, I can’t see The Order being at the top of Playstation’s priority list right now. It’s a shame, considering the possibilities for where the story could go next. Even if it wasn’t a traditional spiritual successor to the narrative of 1886, the beauty of the mysterious elixir was that it would maintain the roundtable for centuries, meaning that Galahad and friends would have still been serving through the 20th and 21st century. Why not throw them into the trenches of The First World War in The Order: 1914? Or continue down the espionage route and have them suss out the supernatural involvement in JFK’s assassination in The Order: 1963? Hell, if they were that ambitious, Galahad could take on an alien invasion in The Order: 2886.
I should probably acknowledge The Order’s weakest aspect, and unfortunately it’s the actual gameplay mechanics. Not everyone’s keen to sit through endless cover-based shooting segments, considering most adventure games have you doing that nowadays, but I don’t believe that anyone should use that as ammunition against The Order. It did feel somewhat shoehorned in between dialogue-heavy cutscenes and slow-paced exploration, so perhaps that’s why it wasn’t taken too so well. But nevertheless, it was made bearable by the range of cool weapons at Galahad’s disposal. Using BFGs to fire out electric charges and stuff was pretty awesome, and made you feel like a beast against the waves of foot soldiers. These sequences are certainly not as mind-numbing as everyone makes them out to be; the environments they took place in were enough to satisfy me and they don’t take up too much of each level.
Galahad’s story is unique and is executed well, albeit concisely. For the few hours you’re playing it, you’re drawn in by the extraordinary world of lycans and brave knights, in a world that’s so perfectly created by the PS4’s capabilities. Even if it was just a prototype for the likes of Uncharted 4, Horizon and Until Dawn, it achieved what it set out to be and for me personally, no amount of bad reviews can take that away from it.
If any of you like-minded fans of The Order are thinking of crowdfunding a sequel, then give me a shout.
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